In the first in a series analysing Darlington's town centre strategy, Nick Gullon looks at the council's plans for the Indoor Market

IN a bid to safeguard the future of an historic building, Darlington Borough Council are turning to the youth.

"They will be the ones using the town centre in the future", says Ian Williams, the authority's director of economic growth.

Nowhere is that emphasis more evident than the plans for the Victorian indoor market, which Mr Williams says could become "quirky", with a number of bars, international cuisine, and even a stage for bands to perform live.

But what about the listed building's purpose as a market?

The town centre strategy states the market should be considered a place for "high quality, small independent retailers and food operators" in a "safer and more engaging environments".

Market trader Robin Blair isn't convinced.

The Northern Echo:

"I have mixed feelings," he said.

"Something needs to be done and we have to find a way of increasing footfall, but my main concern is there is no mention of the market.

"It is still a place to be used, it has been here for hundreds of years. The older community rely on it for shopping.

"I am worried it is going to go too upmarket and people can't afford to spend their money.

"We have had no consultation with the council – they've never actually come to us as traders and asked our views."

Mr Williams said: "I have no doubt the building will look fantastic, but what goes on in the building is more important.

"At the moment it is not looking its best and fulfilling its potential the way we want it to, which is why councillors are prepared to invest.

"The real jewel in the crown is what we call the tempered garden side. We firmly believe by introducing a new offering, international food and beverage, it will appeal to a much younger audience, and will lengthen the amount of time the market will be operating, and give the builder a longer use.

"There's a number of examples up and down the country where these places, a bit quirky with music in, have been a success and there's nowhere like it in the Tees Valley."

The plans for the market also include a refurbishment, new toilets, office space on the upper floors and a farm shop facility.

Cllr Alan Marshall, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: "The residents of Darlington do recognise that the Victorian market is the beating heart of the town - they are supportive of that building being brought into the modern world with modern facilities."

For more information on Darlington's town centre strategy,

click here

  • See tomorrow's Northern Echo for a look at the plans for Skinnergate.